SQUASH – Episode 3: Ali’s Journey To The Bandit Training Camp In North Africa

Kadiri made some hand gestures resembling drawing a circle in the air, and within three minutes the entire squad of bandits disappeared behind the dust they raised in different directions.


As the dust settled, I saw a rugged-looking motorcycle. It has an unusual height for a front-wheel suspension, with rough road tires for both the front and back wheels.


Kadiri walked towards the motorcycle and mounted it. He motioned to me to come to him.


Let’s go to Mauritania, my little brother.


He opened his arms as I lifted mine. He lifted me and placed me on the customized fuel tank of the motorcycle. The fuel tank was bigger when compared to normal tanks on the bikes I was accustomed to in Kano.


The engine of the motorcycle roared to life. It was a beast of a machine. The engine has been tweaked to put out 1200cc of torque. I could feel pure mechanical muscle vibrating beneath where I sat on the tank as my legs dangled in the air.


The high tanks protected me from the incoming winds as the machine rumbled through the desert. Kadiri was an expert desert rider who took invisible routes in the Sahara desert. We traveled at a constant pace for the remaining bright daylight that was left, but before the sun dimmed down we arrived at a hut in the middle of nowhere.


A man was waiting for us inside the hut. He was a hunter of sorts. Kadiri called out to him. Nura! He responded from within the hut. Kadiri!


The engine of the motorcycle was still rumbling when Kadiri lifted me off it. As my feet touched the ground, I felt a tingling sensation in my legs. It must have been caused as a result of sitting too long on Kadiri’s vibrating beast of a machine.


Nura came out to meet us as Kadiri put off the engine of the motorcycle. My eardrums banged with every move of my feet, as I tried to eliminate the tingling feeling in my legs. My worn-out sandals raised some desert dust in the process.


Kadiri alighted from the motorcycle and engaged the stand close to the back wheels that looked browned out from the brown desert soil. They both shook hands as they met.


Nura looked at my direction and asked; Is this the boy from the prophecy?

Kadiri responded; That is what Danlami told me.


He asked us to come sit down on the bamboo bench at the side of the entrance into the hut. We both walked towards the entrance of the hut and sat down on the bench while Nura continued into the hut.

When Nura came out of the hut, he was holding a wire-woven basket by its handle. Inside it, there was a number of roasted maize. He also held a plastic jug of water in the other hand. Kadiri collected the water first and motioned to me to get the basket from him. The three of us ate and also drank from the same jug in turns.


I want to go hunting now before we lose daylight entirely. If you still have strength in you, you and your boy can join me otherwise, you can rest from your four-hour journey to this place while I go hunting.


Kadiri replied Nura; I only rest when I am dead, besides there is no sleep for the wicked! They both laughed at the almost dry joke.


Nura went into the hut and as he came back out, he had two 1976 Ithaca Mag 10 shotguns hanging in cross positions across each other on his back, and he was holding a hunting bag.


He opened the hunting bag and brought out two flashlight helmets, and a small box containing two chains for the bullet rounds of the Magnums he was hanging on his back. There were other things in the bag that looked like charms.


I asked Kadiri; What are those things wrapped in red?

It is for protection from wild animals like the hyena. The hyenas can see at night but whoever wears this becomes a threat to hyenas, no matter their number.


He brought out one of the charms and wore it around my neck. I felt some form of magnetic energy surge through my bones. I was charged in a way I cannot explain.


They both wore the flashlight helmets, the charms, and the belts of ammunition then Kadiri took one of the guns from him.


We walked towards the motorcycle and Kadiri got onto it, started the engine with one kick and it roared to life. Nura lifted me onto the backseat and sat behind me, then we rode deeper into the desert.


As the darkness came upon us, Kadiri turned on the powerful lights installed on the motorcycle. Behind us was unending darkness but in front was artificial daylight.


As we were journeying through the wilderness, Kadiri and Nura spoke about the yearly reduction of game in the desert. Kadiri suggested another plan. This was not Nura’s normal hunting route.


Kadiri was also a trained hunter of sorts and understood the migrating patterns of the Addra gazelles of the Saharan desert, so he told Nura of his plans and Nura agreed.


Nura would be joining us close to the border where we would part ways and he would return to his hut with Kadiri’s motorcycle.


As we journeyed through the planned route, we came upon a small herd of Addra gazelles. They had started trotting their way away from the noise of the incoming light and engine noise. As our lights got closer, they started a full-speed gallop in one direction.


Kadiri switched up his motorcycle gear and throttled the bike. We were moving insanely fast and these gazelles could keep up the gap between us and them at such speeds.


Flank them on the left. Nura shouted amid the chaos.


Kadiri veered the motorcycle to the left and increased its speed as Nura aimed the already-loaded 1976 Ithaca Mag 10 on the largest gazelle among the herd. Blast!


The gazelle fell and slid from behind the running herd which jumped over it and continued their race. Kadiri brought the motorcycle to a halt systematically and we turned back towards the fallen gazelle.


When we came upon the gazelle, it was making a vibrating thrust with its legs. Nura came down from the bike quickly, turned on his helmet’s light, and came close to the fallen animal. He held the base of the gazelle’s horn and brought out a very sharp custom-made knife from its scabbard, which was attached very close to the inner thigh of his right leg. He made a short prayer and ended the life of the gazelle.


He let it bleed out…while it bled, I and Kadiri also alighted from the motorcycle. He activated the double stand of the motorcycle by holding it down with one foot and making a backward jerk movement.


I watched as they carried the gazelle onto the bike fuel tank and tied it there with ropes from the hunting bag. We all got onto the bike and continued our journey towards the border of Mauritania.


We covered so much distance that night and only stopped to refuel three times at secret black markets run by the bandits of the Sahara and for every stop, we cut out a portion of the gazelle as payment.


During this journey, we passed through the borders of Niger and Mali, and within these countries, there were bandits and people loyal to the command of Danlami.


Danlami ascended in ranks in 12 years to become the supreme leader of the bandits of West Africa. He has close ties to connections in the north and coupled with his schematic mind, he was able to design a sustainable system for all the bandits in Africa. He became West Africa’s Field Marshal on merit. He only summons Kadiri on special missions.


Delivering the special boy to Mauritania was one such mission.


There are government officials on the lookout for human trafficking across the borders but they are not experienced enough to catch Kadiri. He survived the desert for 10 years alone. It was rumored that the desert spirit listened to him and fed him throughout the ten years.


The desert spirits also taught him how to find water at specific places in the desert at specific times.


We stopped at a hut as we neared the border between Mali and Mauritania. It was also controlled by Nura, the hunter. He controls most of the bandit refreshing points across North Africa. We all came down from the motorcycle in the order in which we mounted it.


Kadiri said to me; The desert is a land of promise.


Kadiri gave Nura the weapon, charm, and ammunition belt that he wore.


Kadiri brought down what was left of the Addra gazelle. Nura went into the hut and came out with a bunch of firewood, and Kadiri took some fuel with a small bottle from the motorcycle.


Nura arranged the wood and took the fuel from Kadiri. He poured some onto the wood. He brought out a small gas lighter from his pocket. He took out one of the slim wood from the fire, lit it with the gas lighter, and then threw the wood back into the bunch. Boom, the fire started.


We waited a few minutes for the fire to saturate through the wood. Nura dissected what was left of the gazelle such that the fire would simmer through it quickly while Kadiri created a hanger for the meat with two wooden stands.


Nura went back into the hut, this time he brought out a thin rod that was sharp on one end and some salt. He pierced the bulk of the meat in its middle and hung it horizontally on the already vertically paced stands facing each other across the fire.


Nura sprinkled the salt on the meat and allowed it to roast over the fire. He turned it round at intervals. Kadiri brought out a custom-made knife he got as a gift when the Saudi Arabian messenger visited the training camp in Mauritania. He cut out a little piece of the meat and tasted it. It was delicious.


The scent of the gazelle roasting over the fire made my taste buds yearn loudly and my stomach rumbled in anticipation. Kadiri cut some part of it that he felt I could finish and passed it to me. I quickly rose up from where I was sitting and collected it from him. I started chewing before I got back to the bamboo bench outside the hut.


I watched them from a distance as they ate. I was already feeling sleepy and passed out on the bench with some of the meat still in my right hand.


Ali, it’s noon, get up. As I woke up from my sleep my eyes met with Kadiri’s eyes. I looked behind him and saw thousands of men armed with different kinds of weapons assembled and organized as though they were schoolchildren on an assembly ground.


They all came here to welcome the child of prophecy.


The story of my arrival had spread far and wide among the bandits in Africa.

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